Vegan Caesar Salad with Crispy Baked Tofu Croutons
This vegan Caesar salad is incredible and seriously way better than the typical Caesar salad! I used one of my favorite ingredients, cashews, to create a creamy Caesar dressing. I also experimented with tofu for the first time and used that in place of croutons. Wow! Who says salads are boring?!?!
I admit it… I was scared, nervous and intimidated to make a recipe with… tofu. It was one of those foods I always wanted to try out, but I wasn’t really sure what to make with it and I was worried the tofu wouldn’t turn out very good. I’m so glad that I bit the bullet- baking the tofu couldn’t be any easier, it turned out delicious and made this Vegan Caesar Salad even more delightful! The tofu takes the place of the typically used bread croutons, keeping this salad gluten-free and adds various nutrients. Tofu is an excellent source of iron, protein and calcium.
When you go to make this salad and I know you will, just be aware there are several prep steps that take some time. Don’t get me wrong, the recipe is really easy and there’s very little hands on time, but you will need to allow time for cashews to soak and tofu to drain. I made this on a Sunday, when I was in the kitchen working on other recipes and it really didn’t take very much of my time. Brad and I ate the salad for lunch and then I had leftovers for lunch the next day. It kept really well in the fridge. I used Nasoya extra-firm tofu. Nasoya is USDA certified organic and made with only Non-GMO Project verified soybeans.
Vegan Caesar Salad with Crispy Baked Tofu
For the salad:
- 14 oz Nasoya organic extra firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch or cornstarch
- 1 large head of romaine, about 8 cups chopped
- 5 cups destemmed chopped kale*
- optional: pomegranate seeds for garnish
For the dressing, makes 3/4 cup (need to allow time for soaking cashews):
- 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight or for at least 4 hours
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard or a spicy deli mustard
- 1-2 tablespoon lemon juice, lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
- 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, use a vegan brand; such as Annie's, if desired
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- water to thin, as needed (reserve cashew soaking water for this, I needed about 1/4 cup)
To prepare and bake tofu:
- Drain the tofu and gently squeeze out some of the water. Slice the tofu in half lengthwise so you have two one-inch thick pieces. Transfer the tofu to a plate lined with a paper towel, then place another paper towel over the pieces and place something heavy on top to help the tofu drain. I used a stack of magazines. Set aside for 15-30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the weight and drain off the excess liquid. Slice the pressed tofu into cubes and transfer cubes to a large dry plate. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over tofu cubes, sprinkle on sea salt and 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch (or cornstarch); toss gently until the starch is evenly incorporated. Arrange the tofu in an even layer on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil and sprinkle once more with sea salt. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 30 minutes, tossing the tofu halfway through baking and baking until edges are deeply golden.
To make dressing:
- Drain soaked cashews and reserve soaking water.
- Combine cashews and all other dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. You may need to stop the blender several times and scrape down sides. Add water, as needed, a little at a time to thin out the dressing. The final product should not be super thin. This is supposed to be a thicker dressing.
To make salad:
- Chop romaine and kale, discarding stems and toss in a large bowl to combine. Spoon all of the dressing over the lettuce and use your hands to fully incorporate the dressing to cover the lettuce. Gently stir in cooled tofu. Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with pom seeds, if desired. Enjoy!
Something to think about….
Have you ever tried tofu? What did you think?
Are you a Caesar salad fan? What’s your favorite type of salad?